Free Trade

Elizabeth Warren's Pitch for 'Economic Patriotism' Is Full of Intellectual Dishonesty and Economic Fallacies

Warren needs to take a lesson from Leonard Read's "I, Pencil."

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) is promising to protect Americans from the scourge of…pencils?

In a new video posted to Twitter over the weekend, the presidential candidate promises to create a new federal agency that would expand on the protectionist measures undertaken by Donald Trump. She's even borrowing Trumpian rhetoric for the project, which she calls "economic patriotism," as she promises that a Warren administration would put the interests of American workers first.

Warren's attack on corporations that supposedly harm Americans by shifting jobs overseas is full of intellectual dishonesty and economic fallacies. Rather than making a case for greater government involvement in the corporate boardrooms of America, the video succeeds only at highlighting how misinformed and misguided such interventions are, regardless of whether they are executed by Trump or Warren.

"There are a lot of giant companies who like to call themselves 'American,' but face it: they have no loyalty or allegiance to America," she says in the video.

As proof, Warren points to the "famous no. 2 pencil," which is mostly manufactured in Mexico and China. Her video doesn't make clear why pencils should have to be made in America—or why that lack of good, pencil-making jobs in America is a problem.

That Warren chose to use pencils to illustrate the supposed need for "economic patriotism" is darkly hilarious to anyone familiar with "I, Pencil," Leonard Read's 1958 parable about the merits of free markets and comparative advantage. Reed's lesson is that no one on the planet has the means or knowledge to make an item as mundane and ubiquitous as a simple pencil. A pencil requires wood, graphite, brass, and rubber, but each component part is the result of supply chains that might stretch around the world—from the forests of the Pacific Northwest to the mines of Mexico to the factories of Indonesia.

"Neither the worker in the oil field nor the chemist nor the digger of graphite or clay nor any who mans or makes the ships or trains or trucks nor the one who runs the machine that does the knurling on my bit of metal nor the president of the company performs his singular task because he wants me," Read wrote in the role of the eponymous pencil. "Each one wants me less, perhaps, than does a child in the first grade."

And yet we have pencils. Tons of them. Not only that, but the process for obtaining and combining those various component parts is so efficient—despite "the absence of a master mind" directing all those activities, Read notes—that you can buy dozens of pencils for no more than a few dollars. The simple pencil is a miracle of the modern world, and of trade that crisscrosses national borders.

What is true about pencils is true about almost everything else you buy too. There's not really any such thing as an "American" or "foreign" automobile anymore. Not when the world's biggest BMW plant is in South Carolina, and when the assembly line for a single car seat might zig-zag across the U.S.-Mexico border five or six times. The iPhone is engineered in the United States, is manufactured in China, and contains components sourced all over the world.

That Warren fails to grasp this—or that she cynically believes voters don't grasp it—makes her no better than Trump when it comes to trade policy. Indeed, Trump's use (and abuse) of executive power to implement his own myopic and self-defeating trade policies may have only paved the way for a more competent protectionist like Warren, if she ends up in the White House.

It's worth noting that Warren's proposal for a new federal department to oversee her "economic patriotism" scheme would potentially streamline some government functions. She says the new Department of Economic Development would replace the Commerce Department and "a handful of other government agencies." Consolidation of the federal bureaucracy can be a good way to root out unnecessary overlap between existing agencies, but this seems like an effort at reorganizing a bunch of things the feds shouldn't be doing in the first place.

Beyond that, there's little truth to the claim that American manufacturing has been hollowed out by trade. Foreign investment in American manufacturing reached record highs in 2018, and American manufacturing output has tripled since 1980.

Warren's proposal smacks of a disingenuous attack on the benefits of free markets, with Warren trying—and failing—to make American corporations seem like a foreign threat.

"The truth is," she claims in the video," these American companies have only one real loyalty, and that's to their shareholders, a third of whom are foreign investors."

What about other two-thirds of those shareholders Warren is trying to demonize? Well, they would be Americans, of course.

NEXT: Google Cracks Down on Employees' Political Speech

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  1. Talking Bull speak with forked tongue.
    Needs heap big enema.

  2. Warren pledges in the future when she buys and flips houses from widows and orphans she will only buy and flip houses from AMERICAN widows and orphans.

  3. FFS, her economic platform is almost literally Fascism.

    BTW: Are American workers better than foreign workers or not? It seems to shift week to week.

    1. They sure cost a lot more

    2. The word almost is unnecessary.

    3. Magic soil. The foreign workers are evil, and taking away good paying American jobs. Until they pay a coyote to sneak them across the border, at which point they are magically transformed into the embodiment of the American Dream, and more it’s rightful heir than native born citizens, since they clawed and scratched their way to get here rather than just being lucky to be born here.

    4. Are American workers better than foreign workers or not? It seems to shift week to week.

      It’s almost like you’re suggesting that when they tell coal miner’s to “learn to code”, they aren’t smugly implying that foreign laborers couldn’t learn to code more cheaply while really just telling people they don’t like to fuck off and die.

  4. promises to create a new federal agency that would expand on the protectionist measures undertaken by Donald Trump. She’s even borrowing Trumpian rhetoric for the project, which she calls “economic patriotism,” as she promises that a Warren administration would put the interests of American workers first.

    WORSE THAN TRUMP is not an effective campaign slogan for the Squaw.

  5. Why did populism take hold of all our pols in 2016.

    Clinton, Dubya, and Obama were all free traders. But in 2016 the riff-raff in flyover country started blaming trade deals for obsolete factories shutting down. Thus jackoff populists like Trump, Warren and Sanders emerged.

    We make for shit than ever before in the USA. Jobs are just shifting from plant floors to software and automation experts.

    1. We make MORE shit than ever before.

      https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/OUTMS

    2. We know the rise of populism is a results of the anxiety. The problem is that capitalism can not address this anxiety. What is needed is something outside of the realm of capitalism and that has been lacking. The obsolete factories that were shutdown took away jobs and imposed economic hardships on local communities. It is not the responsibility of the market to care about this problem. That is why we need a balancing force. If companies adhere to the idea that “we are here to make profits” and “it not our responsibility” If companies will not sacrifice some (not all) profits for their workers and their community, they can expect government to step in and impose regulations. I fully expect the next President to be a populist (Trump or Warren).

      1. Sad, but you are probably correct.

      2. If you cut people off the government tit, or at least reduced the tit to a small B cup, people would move to where jobs are and get training in the trades. Right now, they get just enough to keep them from going anywhere.

        1. TLAH, While your comment has merit it may not be as easy to relocate workers. If the factory has moved out of the country, its impossible. A new factory now in another state may already have the sufficient workers from the local population New factories are likely more automated and may only need a fraction of the workers from the closed factory. So I support relocating and retraining but recognize its is not a panacea. Also supporting relocating and retraining will likely fall on the government.

          1. The real “problem” ladies and gentlemen is that companies are free (thank God!) to do whatever the hell they want as regards jobs, profits etc. It is ABSOLUTELY NOT the Governments’ right to tell companies where they can produce their products and/or whom they hire to made said product or how much they pay them is fascist. The taxes many companies face almost force them to make product overseas, but our crooked federal government would rather see jobs go overseas than make, i.e., steal, less money by lowering taxes. The fact that lowering taxes and regulatory burdens would allow and encourage U.S. companies to STAY in the U.S. is irrelevant to money-grabbing politicians. Those who see their jobs go overseas have no one to blame but our crooked, money-grubbing governments and unions, federal, state, and local.

            1. There is something that can be done to stop these companies moving abroad to exploit the cheap labour costs of the other country. You can apply tariffs, which is exactly what Trump is doing. Do you honestly believe there should be no consequences for companies to close down factories in their home countries and move them to another for pure profit motivations. Countries have a right to protect their home markets especially from predatory countries who provide little to no workers rights. Screw that. These companies have no loyalty, so should not be shown any loyalty back.

    3. You seem to be confused about free trade. You idea is to let the US design products here and let Chinese slave labor make the products. Then let the former manufacturing workers OD on Chinese fentanyl.
      The other problem is the visas to let cheap coders in from India.
      I go back to the old Dylan song “ you don’t need a weather vane to see that the wind direction has changed “

      1. Grow up, dumb ass ! I’ve been to China, and there is no slave labor. As for O.D., stop lying, or at least make up a lie that is not so utterly stupid that even a dolt like you wouldn’t believe it.

  6. You mean to tell me that a worthless blowhard who built her career and personal wealth by pretending to be Native American and flipping foreclosed homes doesn’t have a fucking clue how any aspect of legitimate business works?!
    I must run down the basement and find my shocked face.

    1. What’s wrong with flipping houses? I agree she’s an idiot but I don’t understand how buying something for sale, fixing it and then reselling is not legitimate business. Go back to school, Dr. Barbay.

      1. I think he’s saying that the problem is that she didn’t learn anything from flipping houses.

        1. And I was just using the opportunity to make a Dangerfield reference.

      2. “Flipping foreclosed homes”.

        Well, I would guess that her obsession with grievance and victim hood has included pandering to the “victims” who lost their homes ten years ago. So, yeah, if she flipped foreclosures for profit, that is kinda funny.

        Haha

      3. It’s the hypocrisy. If she didn’t do this herself, she would almost certainly criticize those who did for “profiting on the backs of the downtrodden,” or some other bs like that.

  7. What is true about pencils is true about almost everything else you buy too. There’s not really any such thing as an “American” or “foreign” automobile anymore…..The iPhone is engineered in the United States, is manufactured in China, and contains components sourced all over the world.

    That Warren fails to grasp this—or that she cynically believes voters don’t grasp it

    Okay, can we all agree that it’s not cynical to think that a lot of voters don’t grasp even the most basic elements of economics?

    Its a pretty solid assumption. An assumption so solid that, if I were a candidate, I wouldn’t worry about putting out a video totally ignoring economics in an attempt to pull Trump voters to my side.

    1. You mean ECO101 isn’t mandatory for all students?

    2. ‘cynical’ does not mean pessimistic, it means hypocritical and opportunistic.

      1. No, cynical means you believe people are out for their own interests and nothing else.

        It would be more accurate for the author to state that they are cynical about Warren’s misuse of economics. I don’t think Warren is being cynical, but I do believe she is being self serving. Which makes me the cynic.

      2. Try looking words up that are too hard for you to understand before you make yourself look even more stupid that you already are. The definition of “cynical” is: Selfishly or callously calculating. No hypocritical in there, dumbass.

    3. Any time you generalize hundreds of millions of people like it’s nothing at all, yeah, you’re being cynical.

      Americans don’t understand economics, but the free market is the most efficient way to allocate resources because…? Oh right, because most people actually do understand economics and understand the connection between pursuing self interest and compromise.

      1. Na, I don’t think people understand economics even on the most basic level.

        But I do agree that I am cynical.

        1. People might not understand it in the academic sense, but most people instinctually get it. I’ve never had a difficult time explaining concepts to people who ask me about them. I find economics extremely relatable to daily life.

        2. You are right about the lack of economic knowledge, and it is, in part, this lack of knowledge that has people here and elsewhere making themselves look foolish. Congratulations for being a very rare comment maker: that is, one who actually knows what he is talking about.

  8. I see what’s going on here, and OBL should pick up on this. Lizzie is playing 89-degree chess to Trump’s 88-degree chess. She’s hoping to out-Trump Trump, to hijack his favorite theme, because she knows how much he hates that. Then he’ll pivot 180 degrees and implement unilateral free trade!

    We got some fuckin genius in this campaign all right, and OBL is right on top of it.

    1. Tucker covered a book Warren wrote in the 2000s, which was both pro economic nationalism and pro US worker.

      Warren is their strongest candidate.

  9. How can she win if she’ not woke enough to understand patriotism is another form of racism?

  10. they have no loyalty or allegiance to America,
    political junk food

    1. No company should have loyalty or allegiance to America. They should only have loyalty and allegiance to those who OWN the companies, that is, shareholders.

  11. Warren: “‘A lot of giant companies refer to themselves as “American.” But let’s face it, they only have one real loyalty: Their shareholders.”

    Wrong. Their main loyalty is to their customers, without which, they would have no shareholders, and no company. What Warren really means, is loyalty to her twisted version of patriotism and, oh, “social justice.”

    Once in a blue moon, this ideologue says something something worth thinking about, which means that a broken clock is correct much, much more often.her underdeveloped intellect.

    1. Loyalty to their shareholders would be a huge step up.

      Most of them are only loyal to the global apparatchik class, and make bonfires of shareholder cash to light the way to our Woketopian Future.

    2. Their main loyalty is to their customers, without which, they would have no shareholders, and no company.

      I don’t think you know what the word loyalty means. If a business can gain a larger market share by throwing it’s current customer base under the bus, as long as it turns profit for the shareholders, whatever culture and political ideologies they may subscribe to, it’s all good.

      Not that Warren or anyone is discussing the subject at this level or depth.

      1. “I don’t think you know what the word loyalty means. If a business can gain a larger market share by throwing it’s current customer base under the bus, as long as it turns profit for the shareholders, whatever culture and political ideologies they may subscribe to, it’s all good.”

        They still have to sell their product to make profits. Without that, they have zilch. And their shareholders have zilch.

        Changing one’s product line in response to meet the needs of current, or potential, customers, is called good business. Not making such changes leads to stagnation.

        I don’t have any “brand loyalty” at all. Nor can I think of a product I purchase in which I care about the political views, actual or perceived, of the company which manufactures said product.

        I have some guidelines for investing, (one is not investing in foreign-owned companies). But, other than that, I also really don’t care much about the political views of the board of such companies. This is not to say I would “never” care, but the smarter entities tend not to get involved in politics. And yes, I have owned and operated my own small business. And, believe me, my personal views on politics, given my local market, most certainly would have had a negative influence on my bottom line, had I chosen to make them a public part of my business.

        So I guess I am un-loyal.

        1. They still have to sell their product to make profits. Without that, they have zilch. And their shareholders have zilch.

          Assumes free market principles not necessarily in evidence between here and China.

          1. “Assumes free market principles not necessarily in evidence between here and China.”

            I assume very little. Of course free-market principles are not, largely, in play. China devalues its currency when it sees fit, and when it serves their interest.

            On the other hand, the Federal Reserve does the exact same thing, such as during the last recession, when companies could borrow money at near-zero-percent interest. That, also, devalues currency.

            Pot-Kettle

          2. No, assumes mad.casual is actually mad if he, she, it believes the rot written above. As for market principles, fuck them if you can make more money otherwise. NO COMPANY ANYWHERE is in business to be nice, helpful, etc., it is in business for one thing and one things only: PROFITS!!!! God damn the dolts like you who think otherwise.

  12. Christ, what a cunt.

    1. Well a colossal douchebag would certainly be in a position to know that so I’m taking your word for it.

  13. Chinese pencils do suck, though…
    An American-made pencil made of California incense cedar with an eraser that actually erases without smudging is a thing of wonder these days…

    1. I’ve only used cheap mechanical pencils for years.

  14. She says the new Department of Economic Development would replace the Commerce Department and “a handful of other government agencies.”

    She said she was a Native American, too. What’s more likely- that she would eliminate the jobs of government workers, or hire more people to duplicate the work?

    1. “It’s worth noting that Warren’s proposal for a new federal department to oversee her “economic patriotism” scheme would potentially streamline some government functions.”

      Oh please. She wouldn’t streamline a damned thing.

      1. And she might potentially someday be president.

  15. Prior to WWII, economic nationalism was a given for all major US parties.

    Nice to see a Democrat get back on board.

  16. Appropriate acronym: DED, just like the economy if we elect her.

    1. Fortunately, America’s economic strength > Lizzy’s economic illiteracy. She certainly wouldn’t help, though.

  17. Elizabeth Warren’s Pitch for ‘Economic Patriotism’ Is Full of Intellectual Dishonesty and Economic Fallacies

    So she is pretty much like every other politician, just varying by degree?

    1. She wants to install democrat political officers in larger corporations, she wants to tax wealth, she wants to force single pay or healthcare on America, and she also wants to ban all private health insurance. This is in addition to insane Green initiatives, massive tax hikes, etc..

      Warren is a communist, pure and simple. She is also an enemy of freedom.

  18. The problem isn’t just Warren. None of the candidates are any better than Trump and done are decidedly worse. It says something that out of a population of some 360 million, any couple dozen people willing to run are invariably either morons or corrupt reprobates, or most often both.

    1. The job selects for that. No decent person would want it.

  19. More likely is that pencils would cost $45.00, and require a government permit to own, and a separate permit to use; because points. And they would be made without wood, because trees.
    Or maybe you would have to go to a government facility and use the pencil under supervision. The government would own all the pencils, and let you use one after your request was reviewed and approved.

    1. More likely is that pencils would cost $45.00, and require a government permit to own, and a separate permit to use; because points. And they would be made without wood, because trees.

      At which point US voters would actually be faced with the real consequences of their poor economic and environmental choices.

      Right now, US voters impose debilitating regulations and laws on US businesses and workers but are protected from the consequences because we just cover up the damage by borrowing and importing from countries like China without such regulations.

      Free trade is not the solution to a corrupt and economically destructive federal government.

  20. Leonard Read’s 1958 parable about the merits of free markets and comparative advantage.

    China’s “comparative advantage” being that they are a communist dictatorship that uses their citizens as slave labor, destroys their environment, and is hell-bent on restoring their “rightful place” as the dominant superpower.

    But, hey, we get cheap iPhones and they get to take over the world: everybody benefits from “free trade”!

    1. China’s “comparative advantage” being that they are a communist dictatorship that uses their citizens as slave labor, destroys their environment, and is hell-bent on restoring their “rightful place” as the dominant superpower.

      And, speaking at least for myself, I’m not too opposed to any of the latter above intrinsically. I just *severely* oppose the idea that the latter gets quietly chalked up as a plus for them and a minus for us while the former is well-known.

      1. I just *severely* oppose the idea that the latter [being the dominant superpower] gets quietly chalked up as a plus for them and a minus for us while the former is well-known.

        Trust me on this: you don’t want to live in a world where the Chinese or the Russians are the dominant superpower. Half of Europe lived through that for half a century.

  21. For every complicated economic question, there’s a simple libertarian bedtime story to cover it.

    Don’t be nervous just because she’s refusing to run as a fire-breathing socialist like you want her to. I even agree with this piece and don’t agree with many of Warren’s policies. But she’s selecting positions that both sell liberalism in a way normal simple folk can understand and in doing so is undercutting her eventual opponent, Trump.

    1. Don’t be nervous just because she’s refusing to run as a fire-breathing socialist like you want her to.

      She’s worse: she’s a progressive.

      But she’s selecting positions that both sell liberalism

      Warren is about as far from liberalism you can get, short of outright fascism.

      in a way normal simple folk can understand

      And right on cue: the view of a fascist, in which superior (wo)men need to lead the masses into a glorious future!

      1. How much time have you spent listening to Warren speeches or reading her policy proposals?

        Stop letting other people do your thinking for you.

        1. I think that is the problem right there….we aren’t letting other people (like the MSM) do our thinking for us, and that is why so many of us viscerally oppose Senator Pocahontas – personally and on a policy basis.

          1. Come up with that racist nickname all by yourself, did you?

            1. No Tony, I did not, to be honest about it. But it fits well, don’t you think? 😉

              (you don’t have to answer the question)

              1. I don’t think it fits. From all we know, Pocahontas was a compassionate young woman who never did anything wrong. It is wrong to attach her name to someone as dishonest and selfish as Warren.

                If you like, call Warren “Fauxcahontas”; that fits a lot better.

            2. It’s bad enough that Warren defends race-based hiring policies at colleges and universities; what makes it even worse is that she attempted to misrepresent herself in order to claim benefits she clearly wasn’t entitled to and then lied about it later.

              I do agree that using the term “Pocahontas” to refer to her is wrong; Pocahontas does not deserve to have her name attached to someone who acted in such a deplorable manner.

              1. There are real problems to deal with in this world, you know. Stop being such a bleating goddamn sheep.

                I’m not going to relitigate this nonsense. The president being a racist fucking bigot from the Oval Office is worse than anything Warren ever did.

                1. Trump is not racist. You are. So stop the bullshit ‘Esmeralda’.

                2. There are real problems to deal with in this world, you know. […] The president being a racist fucking bigot from the Oval Office is worse than anything Warren ever did.

                  So you point out that there are “real problems” in this world, but then complain about Trump’s bigotry.

                  I agree: there are real problem in this world; Trump is trying to address them, while Warren is promising tons of free shit for her constituents without having any idea of what to do about our real problems.

                  1. Trump is telling people he will pardon them for stealing land to build his useless, expensive border wall as a campaign gimmick.

                    Stop reading whatever you read. Stop watching whatever you watch. I’ve seen people come back from the right-wing abyss once they just turn the crap off. You’ll be happier. Well, maybe not, but you’ll be smarter.

        2. How much time have you spent listening to Warren speeches or reading her policy proposals?

          I’ve read her major proposals, read a couple of her books, and listened to her speeches. Her policy proposals are largely nonsense. Warren is unqualified to run a convenience store, let alone be president; she has no understanding of economics, science or technology.

          Stop letting other people do your thinking for you.

          Yeah: take your own advice. In fact, Elizabeth Warren should take your advice since there doesn’t seem to be an original thought in her head.

          1. Well her opponent will be Trump, so I look forward to hearing that you voted for her, since those are your stated criteria.

            1. She’s a fucking socialist. No sane person should want that for president.

              1. She’s a self-described capitalist who wants what are, globally speaking, moderate reforms on capitalism so that it works as advertised.

                Your president is the one who wants to steal vast numbers of acres of land to build a monument to his small dick on the southern border. We’ve never had more of a Hugo Chavez than Trump. You people are just too dumb to get past the (R) after his name, which is just fucking sad.

  22. What, the woman who is most famous for claiming to be Native American when she isn’t, to take advantage of racial preferences, is intellectually dishonest? Say it isn’t so!

    Warren wants power so much it’s nauseating. She has the morals of a three year old weasel.

    1. She wants power… unlike all those other guys running to be president.

      1. Yeah, but she is particularly unqualified to hold power.

          1. Right. I dare say she meets all the qualifications actually required.

          2. Compared to Trump, for one.

  23. It’s not that Trump/Warren voters don’t understand it. It’s how fucking tone deaf you are every time there’s structural economic change that leaves someone behind and you tell them to learn to code or to get replaced by illegal immigrants. Stop being a condescending prick and learn to empathize for your fellow man. Our worth extends beyond our ability to contribute to the global economy and it is extremely dangerous to pretend that someone willing to trade with us is more analogous to a countryman than your own blood.

    1. I think in the absence of bad economic and social policies (minimum wage, overregulation, welfare, redistribution, low skill immigration, etc.) few Americans would be left behind in the first place.

  24. What’s a “pencil?”

  25. The headline could have simply read “Elizabeth Warren is full of intellectual dishonesty and economic fallacies.” Her most famous academic paper was her medical bankruptcy paper, which is both of these things, as a search will easily show. Even the NYT and WaPo had to admit that.

    1. But she did write a book on personal finance management. It took a lot of words for her to say “spend less money on things you don’t need”.

  26. “The truth is,” she claims in the video,” these American companies have only one real loyalty, and that’s to their shareholders, a third of whom are foreign investors.”

    The investors expect to profit. I wonder how the company generates that. Perhaps they provide competitive products and services to customers?

    1. Perhaps they provide competitive products and services to customers?

      In a free market, sure. In a Chinese market, they might sell products to help the Chinese government spy on its people, they might sell products to help the Chinese government spy on Americans, they might just sell out to a Chinese holding company that is held or gets seized by the government.

  27. “I call it economic patriotism.”
    I call it socialist bullshit.

  28. Five years ago this was all the stuff of the most absurd parody.

  29. economic patriotism? sounds like the pre-Nazi definition of fascism to me, from an economic standpoint.

    Why do we always have to choose between people who pretend to be pro free market, but cater to your average immigrant/abortion/gay marriage hating trumpkin (avg GOPer, avg commenter here, ron paul, etc), or people with civilized social views combined with near economic illiteracy (sanders, warren)?

  30. Are Trump’s tariffs really “protectionist”? I was under the impression that they were more punitive against China’s practices than protectionist. Or at least that the protectionism is more of a side effect of getting China to level the field. They are supposed to go away as soon as China makes certain concessions and if American workers and companies still cannot compete after that, too bad.

  31. As for economic patriotism, it’s hard. I’m not a gung-ho America first at all costs guy, but I will tend to favor products made in America over products made elsewhere when the products are of comparable function and quality. And I will tend to use locally -sourced products given a chance. But I chose to buy a VW made by non-union American auto-workers in Tennessee rather than a Ford made in Mexico. Was that “America first”?

  32. Just what we need…another useless government agency that spends loads of money and changes nothing. Our country, or what’s left of it, is nearing the end days. Poca-haunt-us is spouting patriotism while she is a pure hearted Marxist. No conflict there.

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